My research interests lie in the intersection of agricultural and food economics, agricultural policy, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. I strive to include active community engagement in my work through a mixed-methods approach involving interviews and other qualitative methods to inform design of quantitative data collection techniques.

Job market Paper: Resolving the Reality Gap in Farm Regulation Voting Models

Link to full paper here.

Published in Food Policy October 2022 - link.

Abstract: In the United States, nineteen state-level bills and ballot initiatives concerning farm animal welfare (FAW) have been adopted across 12 states. In this research, we seek to model the evolution of the state-level FAW regulatory landscape as a function of legislature characteristics and constituent demographics. More specifically, we utilize a two-stage model to assess (i) whether and when a given state considers FAW measures, and (ii) if so, the likelihood the measures are passed. Using our model, we estimate the likelihood of FAW adoption outcomes for all 50 states. We find that the cost to the egg and pork industries to upgrade to cage- and crate-free production methods in the states most likely to pass a FAW regulation in the future is small relative to the size of the industry. Our findings will assist producers and industry stakeholders in gauging the future of the regulatory landscape and provide guidance on whether to upgrade existing enclosures to comply with mandates on the horizon or to continue operating with ``conventional'' enclosures.

Dissertation project

Projected Funded by: USDA-NIFA EWD Predoctoral Grant (2021-67034-5168): “Avoiding Halal Meat Food Fraud: Consumer Preferences, Retailer Motivations, and Processor Practices”

PI: Kelsey A. Hopkins, Key personnel: Melissa G.S. McKendree

Committee: Melissa G.S. McKendree (chair), David Ortega, Kimberly Chung, Felicia Wu

In Muslim faith, halal meat is harvested in a way such that it is “permissible” or “lawful” for consumption, while haram meat is forbidden. The US domestic halal meat market is complex and the demand for halal meat products is growing quickly as the US Muslim population is predicted to double by 2050. However, little is known about the current state of the market, and recent transparency and food fraud issues raise several questions about consumer, retailer, and processor behavior. Indeed, halal products are the 4th most likely to be fraudulent in the US, suggesting there is room for significant improvement in traceability and certification efforts.

My dissertation research explores the US domestic halal meat market from multiple perspectives using active community engagement and a 2-phase mixed methods approach for each group of market participants – halal meat consumers, retailers, and processors. Phase 1 uses in-depth qualitative interviews with Muslim halal meat consumers and current halal meat retailers and processors to explore motivations for market participation and experiences in the US market. Phase 2 involves surveys and experiments with Muslim halal meat consumers, and both halal and non-halal meat retailers and processors, designed using Phase 1 findings.

Implications: My study is important for the US Muslim population, meat industry agents, and policy makers alike. The implications are far reaching and include insights into increasing consumers’ demand for certified products and cultivating trust in product and supplier authenticity, exploring potential avenues for expanding halal meat market participation by retailers and processors, and defining characteristics of importance to halal meat market participants for the creation of a national halal meat certification program.


My first essay evaluates US halal meat retailers' and processors' motivations for halal meat market participation and certification decisions. Halal meat retailer interviewees cite supporting their community and strongly held convictions for supplying quality products as primary motivators for their business decisions. Halal meat processor interviewees described pecuniary and non-pecuniary reasons for participation in the halal meat market and their certification decisions. The survey for these two groups focuses on exploring business decision-making, perceived barriers and incentives to market entry. The national survey will be conducted in early Fall 2022. Current halal meat retailers and processors, as well as retailers and processors outside of the halal meat market will be surveyed to inform policy suggestions to increase halal meat market participation and compare motivations and perceptions across groups. The survey includes questions to idetify incentives and barriers to market participation, and validated scales to assess reasoning for supplying halal meat. Analysis of survey data will be conducted in Fall 2022.

ESSAy 2: Avoiding Fraudulent Meat: Muslim Consumer Preferences for Halal Meat Retailers

My second essay explores Muslim halal meat consumers’ preferences for halal meat, experience accessing authentic halal meat products, and demand for certification transparency. Results from interviews suggest that religious traits are the primary determining factor when selecting products, though qualities including animal welfare, antibiotic and hormone free production, and similar credence attributes are also considered. Additionally, consumers are skeptical of the authenticity of halal meat products and actively seek transparent certifications. The survey will be conducted in early Fall 2022 and includes validated scales to assess trust in the halal meat market and a hypothetical choice experiment (CE). The CE uses relational contracting framework and a reference alternative model with pivots to value consumer trust in retailers by varying store attributes, personal relationship attributes, and certification. Analysis of survey data will be conducted in Fall 2022.

Essay 3: Market Participants’ Preferences for a National Halal Meat Certification Program

My third essay investigates halal meat consumers', retailers', and proessors' preferences for the structure and development of a natinal halal maet certification program. In interviews, all three groups described concerns about the lack of authentic certified halal meat products; consumers expressed placing significant trust in their retailers, retailers and processors described concerns about fraudulent use of certifications by competitors and issues conveying their business’ authenticity to new customers. Despite this consensus on the lack of transparency in the halal meat market, no national standards or labeling regulations exist. As such, I utilize a stacked best-worst scaling (maximum difference) survey method to elicit preferences for the structure and implementation method for a hypothetical national halal meat certification standard in the US. The national survey will be distributed to consumers, retailers, and processors in early Fall 2022, and analysis of survey data will be conducted in Fall and Winter of 2022.